Priceless Day/Den nad každý jiný

Today is the day when holy light came into the world to redeem mankind. Here is Priceless Day performed by Zaklog the Great:

On Sunday I appeared on an episode of Zaklog the Great’s Book club to discuss this entire series, the recording of which will go live tomorrow.

Below is the English version, followed by the Czech.

Priceless Day

Beyond all hopes, beyond all dreams,
Beyond all human plots and schemes
To cure the ills that plague mankind,
The bonds that hold the weak unbind,

The wisdom of the world surpass,
To show the lost the way at last.
To shame the mighty and the strong
And show the proud where they went wrong.

To open up the narrow door
That leads to love for evermore;
All this through a baby’s birth
To reclaim corrupted Earth.

The fullness of divinity
Combined with full humanity
To be the Way, the price to pay
With unforeseen humility.

No eye had seen, no ear had heard
The mighty and incarnate Word
That cried our tears, that felt our pain,
So we could all be whole again.

The greatest enemy of all
Saw this would lead to his great fall;
He tried to tempt, to spoil, destroy,
But could not taint our source of joy.

At last That Day had come.

Den nad každý jiný

Nad pouhé splnění snů a nadějí,
Všelikých lidských plánů a idejí,
k nemocí všech lidí vyléčení,
okovů rozbití, odemčení,

aby se moudří poučili,
našli se ti, kteří zabloudili,
silných a mocných k zahabení,
omylů pyšných k vyjevení,

otevřít dveře úzké a těsné,
co k lásce bezpečně dovedou věčné
– to vše se naplní v dítěti malém
a jeho království nebývalém.

Dvojí se spojilo v jediném slově:
naplno Bůh a naplno člověk.
Ukázat cestu a zaplatit cenu,
s pokorou neznámou přichází k tobě.

Nelze se nedivit opět a znova
do lidství vtělení mocného Slova.
Cítil tvé bolesti, plakal mé slzy,
aby nás obnovil cele a brzy.

Nepřítel, ten, co má temnoty vládu,
poznal, že směřuje k velkému pádu.
Svádět se pokoušel, ničil a šálil,
radosti zdroj však nezakalil.

Tak konečně vzešel ten den.

Dominus Dixit

This is the other song I was commissioned to write, and is much more ambitious in its scope, in that it requires at least six parts, so would take a very brave musical group to attempt it. The initial tale was of a last Christmas mass being held in a crumbling church before its scheduled demolition and conducted by an aging traditionalist priest being pushed into retirement by a young ‘progressive’ bishop. Instead of simply retelling it in song, I expanded it into a dramatic Valjean/Javert-style confrontation between the two complete with a narrator, congregation and angelic chorus, plus some basic stage direction. 

Dominus Dixit

Narrator:

The town abounds with Christmas cheer
As we near that time of year;
But at the church upon the hill,
There’s little season

 

al goodwill.

With wrinkles on his hands
An old priest humbly stands
Before a younger bishop
Who has ambitious plans:

Bishop:

“I don’t care about tradition,
This is now the modern age;
We’ll knock down this crumbling mission
And then turn a whole new page,

“We’ll build a towering school of philosophy
To break tradition’s chains and set men free;
No more chants of stale encrusted liturgy,
We will march on forward to modernity.”

Priest:

“No, we will not change a thing,
We’ll be here and we will simply sing
Gloria Patri, et Filio,
et Spiritui Sancto.”

Bishop:

“You’ve got one more week, then I can have you replaced
To give this place a welcome change of pace;
People who’ll follow the trends of fashionable thought
And make all the changes that they ought.”

Priest:

“No, we must not change a word
Of what two thousand years has stood;
Foundations must not be destroyed
Or else, we fall into the void.”

Bishop:

“I’ll give you one more chance to prove me wrong,
To keep up with the times and show you belong
To this age of progress, wonders to behold
With your midnight mass, don’t leave me cold.”

Narrator:

The priest retreats to his small room,
Falls to his knees and in the gloom
All week he cries out fervently
With tears and pain and urgency:

Priest:

“Am I blind to the signs of the times,
Or is this the world that I must fight?
“What can I do? What can I say?
How can I find the narrow way?

“Your saints worked through the centuries
Should we be more than mere trustees
Of what they all have handed down;
Dare we resculpt their holy crown?

“My faith is weak, my body frail,
But in You I cannot fail;
I will stand on what I know
You have approved for us to sow.

“Give me strength and wisdom, too
To know what You would have me do.
Let not my slowing mind obscure
Your loving heart, so true and pure.”

Narrator:

The day arrives, all is prepared,
Though some things could not be repaired;
The wooden crèche is incomplete,
Its heralds missing from their seats.

The bishop notices and scoffs,

Bishop:

“Tradition clings to what is lost.
The angels have abandoned you,
A sign so clear it could get through

“Your hard old head to see your fault:
Look at this decaying vault,
‘Tis only fit to be torn down
And something better for this town

Built in its place to serve their needs,
Not merely chant outdated creeds.”

Priest:

“You’ve made it clear, you’ve had your say
Now let me have my final day.”

Narrator:

A handful of old congregants
Sit in nervous cognizance
Of what hangs over this old hall;
The priest stands from his old oak stall.

The bishop sits with a scornful look
As the priest reads from his gilded book:

Priest:

Dóminus dixit ad me:
Fílius meus es tu;
ego hódie génui te.

Narrator:

Some try to read and sing along
With tired notes that come out wrong.
They falter, stop in shame and groan
Until he is again alone.

Priest:

Quare fremuérunt gentes,
et pópuli meditáti
sunt inánia?

Narrator:

Disheartened he begins to slow
And his surrender starts to show,
Then as he sings the next few words,
Two voices from above are heard:

Angels:

Gloria Patri, et Filio,
et Spiritui Sancto.

{Melody} {Angelic harmony}
Narrator: Angels:
The congregation looks around
To find the source of this sweet sound
Inspired by this heavenly noise
All those present add their voice.
Sicut erat in principio
et nunc et semper
et in saecula
saeculorum. Amen.

{All voices: Melody plus angelic harmonies, an additional (ordinary) harmony joins in on ‘Quare’, ‘Gloria’ and ‘Sicut, to represent the congregation gaining more confidence and strength in their singing.}

Dóminus dixit ad me:
Fílius meus es tu;
ego hódie génui te.
Quare fremuérunt gentes,
et pópuli meditáti
sunt inánia?
Gloria Patri, et Filio,
et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio
et nunc et semper
et in saecula
saeculorum. Amen.

{Above repeats with additional bass voice(s)}

Narrator:

When the chorus is complete and each eye sheds joyful tears
And hearts are moved by beauty like they haven’t been in years,
Many search in vain for whence those voices came
That lit their souls on fire with a bright eternal flame.

The balconies were empty, the vestries were unmanned,
There’s nothing in the doorways that could make a sound so grand.
The bishop, shaken to his core, desperate to find out more,
Rushes up some spiral stairs to find beside some broken chairs

Up in the loft are standing two carved wooden figurines;
The angels from the crèche had not abandoned them it seems.
Contrition overwhelms him and he falls onto his knees,
Confessing sins and attitudes and making humble pleas,

Then carries the two angels down to put them in their place
To herald the Lord’s coming with self-sacrificial grace.
The old priest welcomes him back and together they will stand
To proclaim the Christmas message to this precious, blessed land.

When the Light Came Down

A few years ago, I was approached to convert two different stories of Christmas miracles into singable lyrics to be put to music as part of a Christmas album. I composed and sent off the lyrics, but heard no more about efforts to produce the music and record them since then. I’ll share those lyrics with you now, and perhaps one Christmas in the near future their uplifting harmonies will bring joy and hope to an audience.

It is so long ago that I can’t remember the melody I had in mind for this first one, which concerns a secret meeting of Christians in the darkest depths of Soviet Russia. I will share the other one next week, if I can work out a way to format text into two columns in a blog post.

When the Light Came Down

In a land of cruel repression
And an atmosphere of dread,
The threat of disappearance
Hangs over every head.

The Cheka took the clergy
Who failed to hide themselves;
The gulag’s thirst is never quenched
For bloodshed in its cells.

In a barn out in the country
The faithful dare to meet
To celebrate the Nativity,
That great day in history

When the Light came down
To redeem the earth;
The Word made flesh
Through a pauper’s birth.

The pastor sees a boy he knew
And baptized long ago,
Now grown into a strong young man
Trudging through the snow.

The pastor’s smile is tempered
By a dark but nagging thought;
“Where has he been all of these years,
What battles has he fought?

“Is he lost, in need of saving,
Or an agent of the state,
Here to observe, inform on us
And seal our awful fates?”

But the Light came down,
Leaving heavenly bliss,
To be sacrificed
For such a wretch as this.

His mind made up, the pastor calls
For quiet, then he reads
The words of the old liturgy
That address their deepest needs:

For peace on earth, goodwill to men
And glory upon high
To God who is owed all our praise,
And all things beautifies.

When the pleas move on to ask
For blessings on the nation,
A look upon the young man’s face
Betrays his consternation.

For the Light came down
And showed the world its sin;
Men preferred the dark
To being changed within.

All there commend their lives to Christ
With confident conviction
Alone the young man holds his tongue,
Won’t mouth the benediction.

Sins are confessed, repented of,
Forgiveness is proclaimed.
God’s Mercy is extolled and
Calls to holiness are made.

The Eucharist draws nearer,
God’s purity declared;
His Holy Spirit invited into
All those thus prepared.

Then a Light shone down,
Into that dusty place;
An instinctive fear
Flooded every face.

Could that light be the Cheka,
Arriving to arrest
The faithful for their brazenness,
And thought crimes unconfessed?

No, it’s something more profound,
This old barn is now holy ground,
Each heart is filled with joy and peace,
Each guilty conscience finds release.

The young man stumbles forward,
Pleading for his soul,
The great light struck him blind and he
Now longs to be whole.

For the Light came down
To heal our ills;
Not for fortune, fame,
Or a thousand hills.

“I was here at the state’s behest
To report on faith expressed
In anything but the Soviet
And failure to quail at their threats.

“Forgive me, for I have betrayed
All for which you worked and prayed;
I believed their vicious lies
About you and all they despise.”

The old men gather round and pray
For the scales to fall away
From the eyes of his heart and head
To revive what once was dead.

For the Light came down,
Offering new birth,
To flee the snares of sin
And live a life of worth.

Bronze Sunday/Bronzová neděle

Today is the second Sunday of Advent, here is Bronze Sunday performed by Zaklog the Great

below is the English and Czech version

Bronze Sunday

Bronze shields and spears arranged in ranks
To form the fearsome Greek phalanx
Conquered nations far and wide;
Now there’s a new source of Greek pride:

Bold theories and insightful thoughts
That they debate in marble courts.
“Whose wisdom can outshine our own
Or that of our great pantheon?”

Twixt oracles and temples grand
In Athens a small altar stands
Placed there as a reverent nod
To an as yet unknown god.

But soon That Day will come.


Bronzová neděle

Bronzové štíty a v zákrytu kopí
falangy Řeků když moci se chopí.
Kdo může odolat moci a síle,
přichází Řekové a jejich chvíle.

Nádvoří dlážděné mramorem skvělým
debatám naslouchá, myšlenkám smělým.
“Před naší moudrostí každý se sklání,
vznešený pantheon – bez srovnání!”

V zajetí chrámů, kde lid bohy vzývá,
v Aténách oltář prostý se skrývá
Prostý a vážný uprostřed všeho
k uctění boha neznámého.

Však brzy již vzejde ten den.

Iron Sunday/Železná Neděle

My attempts to create a new advent tradition with my Bohemian Advent series in this country have been held back by my recent health problems, but it will continue as a tradition on this blog at least.

I will be appearing on Zaklog the Great’s Book Club to discuss this series in the runup to Christmas. Here he is performing Iron Sunday:

 

Below is the English version, followed by the Czech translation

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<strong>Iron Sunday</strong>

Nations crushed by iron wheels,
With gladii and oblong shields,
As far as human eyes can see
Reigns Caesar unopposed, supreme.

He sees himself as a great god
To rule all with an iron rod.
“My empire has been built to last
My might will never be surpassed.”

But soon That Day will come.

<strong>Železná neděle</strong>

Železná kola národy drtí,
oválné štíty a čepele smrti.
Kam oko člověka dohlédne, vidí,
Císař je bezmezný vládce všech lidí.

Jist si je nade vše svou božskou rolí,
železnou vládne všem pěstí a holí.
“Pevně jsem zbudoval říši svou věčnou,
vládnu jí mocí nekonečnou.”

Však brzy již vzejde ten den.

Priceless Day Redux

Priceless Day

Beyond all hopes, beyond all dreams,
Beyond all human plots and schemes
To cure the ills that plague mankind,
The bonds that hold the weak unbind,

The wisdom of the world surpass,
To show the lost the way at last.
To shame the mighty and the strong
And show the proud where they went wrong.

To open up the narrow door
That leads to love for evermore;
All this through a baby’s birth
To reclaim corrupted Earth.

The fullness of divinity
Combined with full humanity
To be the Way, the price to pay
With unforeseen humility.

No eye had seen, no ear had heard
The mighty and incarnate Word
That cried our tears, that felt our pain,
So we could all be whole again.

The greatest enemy of all
Saw this would lead to his great fall;
He tried to tempt, to spoil, destroy,
But could not taint our source of joy.

At last That Day had come.

Den nad každý jiný

Nad pouhé splnění snů a nadějí,
Všelikých lidských plánů a idejí,
k nemocí všech lidí vyléčení,
okovů rozbití, odemčení,

aby se moudří poučili,
našli se ti, kteří zabloudili,
silných a mocných k zahabení,
omylů pyšných k vyjevení,

otevřít dveře úzké a těsné,
co k lásce bezpečně dovedou věčné
– to vše se naplní v dítěti malém
a jeho království nebývalém.

Dvojí se spojilo v jediném slově:
naplno Bůh a naplno člověk.
Ukázat cestu a zaplatit cenu,
s pokorou neznámou přichází k tobě.

Nelze se nedivit opět a znova
do lidství vtělení mocného Slova.
Cítil tvé bolesti, plakal mé slzy,
aby nás obnovil cele a brzy.

Nepřítel, ten, co má temnoty vládu,
poznal, že směřuje k velkému pádu.
Svádět se pokoušel, ničil a šálil,
radosti zdroj však nezakalil.

Tak konečně vzešel ten den.

Priceless Sunday

On this day of days, we reach the culmination of our Advent Series, with the day that all Advent Sundays look towards, what could be better than Gold Sunday?

Priceless Sunday

Beyond all hopes, beyond all dreams,
Beyond all human plots and schemes
To cure the ills that plague mankind,
The bonds that hold the weak unbind,

The wisdom of the world surpass,
To show the lost the way at last.
To shame the mighty and the strong
And show the proud where they went wrong.

To open up the narrow door
That leads to love for evermore;
All this through a baby’s birth
To reclaim corrupted Earth.

The fullness of divinity
Combined with full humanity
To be the Way, the price to pay
With unforeseen humility.

No eye had seen, no ear had heard
The mighty and incarnate Word
That cried our tears, that felt our pain,
So we could all be whole again.

The greatest enemy of all
Saw this would lead to his great fall;
He tried to tempt, to spoil, destroy,
But could not taint our source of joy.

At last That Day had come.


For more of my poetry, there are two of my collections available on Amazon:

Selected Verse - Faith and Family

Selected Verse - Heroes and Wonders

Bronze Sunday

We continue from last week with part two of this Advent series, inspired by the Bohemian folk names for the four Advent Sundays. Last week was iron, this week is bronze:

Bronze Sunday

Bronze shields and spears arranged in ranks,
To form the fearsome Greek phalanx,
Conquered nations far and wide;
Now there’s a new source of Greek pride:

Bold theories and insightful thoughts
That they debate in marble courts.
“Whose wisdom can outshine our own
Or that of our great pantheon?”

Twixt oracles and temples grand
In Athens a small altar stands
Placed there as a reverent nod
To an as yet unknown god.

But soon That Day will come.


For more of my poetry, there are two of my collections available on Amazon:

Selected Verse - Heroes and Wonders

Selected Verse - Faith and Family

Iron Sunday

As this is the first Sunday of Advent, I will be posting the short first part of what will (hopefully 🙂 ) be a five-part poem, each part themed according to the Czech (Bohemian) folk names for the four Sundays of Advent, Iron Sunday, Bronze Sunday, Silver Sunday and Gold Sunday, followed up by one on Christmas Day itself, which this year also falls on a Sunday (in the American/British tradition anyway, over here the evening of the 24th is the time for the Christmas feast and exchanging of presents. Since, being a British and Czech family, we celebrate both, I think I can get away with making the most of this conjunction of dates)

Iron Sunday

Nations crushed by iron wheels,
With gladii and oblong shields,
As far as human eyes can see
Reigns Caesar unopposed, supreme.

He sees himself as a great god
To rule all with an iron rod.
“My empire has been built to last
My might will never be surpassed.”

But soon That Day will come.

Wise Men

Declared by wonders in the sky,
Wise men saw a king was nigh.
Trusting in their ancient art,
They got ready to depart
Across the vast and burning sand
To a distant promised land.

A mighty convoy was prepared
To ensure they made it there,
With treasures, mounts, supplies and troops
To fend off nomad raiding groups.
Tents to shield from brutal heat
And nightly chills that oft repeat.

After months through harsh terrain,
Despite discomfort, cold and pain,
At last they reached the royal court
To see the newborn king they sought.
The old king flatters them a while,
With subtle knives behind his smile.

“Of course we’ll worship this new king
As soon as you’ve confirmed this thing.
In Bethlehem was prophesied
The birth of our great nation’s guide.
Pay your respects, then bring back news
That we can share with all the Jews.”

With joy refreshed and strength renewed,
And packs refilled with royal food,
They journeyed on to that small town
(Soon to be of great renown),
Above them that celestial sign
Guides them in one final time.

With reverence they find their goal
Beside the slumbering lamb and foal.
Despite the stench, the holy sight
Fills their souls with peace and light.
Their treasured offerings now seem
Paltry in that glorious gleam.

They stay a while, discuss the worth,
The meaning of this wondrous birth,
All that’s heralded this thing,
A pauper’s home for this great king?
What will he be and do for all,
That has the heavens so enthralled?

Their spirits countlessly enriched,
Return to where their tents are pitched,
And as they rest, a herald warns
Of plots against this pure newborn.
To thwart this foul insidious wrath,
They packed and took a stealthy path.

“This all our fathers saw and knew,
Most honoured gospel scribe Matthew.
We know their tale is one small part
Of a greater work of art.
Now we have helped you as we ought,
Please tell us all He did and taught?”